Whatever Rome police detective Nic Costa’s been doing in the unusually long break since his last outing (The Fallen Angel, 2011), it hasn’t prepared him for the ups and downs he faces when he goes undercover with the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta.
The gang leader who prefers to be known as Lo Spettro won’t say why he’s suddenly willing to give up his family to the Questura. But it’s clear that despite his offer, approaching him will be a dangerous proposition. So arrangements are made for Costa to masquerade as Tomasso Leoni, a “minor criminal” from Guelph, Canada. For all his efforts, the deal is still perilous. Although Lo Spettro’s daughter, Lucia Bergamotti, is clearly drawn to Maso Leoni, her brother Rocco is suspicious, territorial, and unpleasantly peremptory in his brutality. And the whimsically inscrutable Lo Spettro wants a sign of loyalty from Leoni before he delivers the goods: “You must kill and be seen to kill.” The opening flashes forward to 10 days later and presents Leoni executing Leo Falcone and Gianni Peroni, a pair of heavies sent to Reggio to tell Emmanuel Akindele, the Nigerian immigrant who operates the Zanzibar on behalf of the 'Ndrangheta, that he needs to take out an insurance policy on the dive bar, with the first payment due immediately. Could Costa have pulled the plug on even a pair of extortionists with so few reservations? If he did, what are the likely consequences, in and out of the legal system? And is it really true, despite the Bible’s assurances to the contrary, that “dead men don’t rise”?
The tale floats on a tide of dark threats, double-crosses, abrupt changes of heart, revelations that characters aren’t as they seem, and indications that the best-kept secrets aren’t secrets at all. Hewson does provide an excellent tour of “Italy’s toe,” which sounds both savage and strangely appealing.